Power Rankings: Where's the perfect team?

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 27, 2011



By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Power Ranger


There’s parity in the NFL right now.

That’s right, we said it. We’ve talked about parity as being something that doesn’t exist over the years, but how else to explain a league where not a single team can boast three dominant wins heading into Week 4?

Green Bay? They’re No. 1, but the Saints had a shot to tie them as time expired in the season opener. Buffalo? They could be 1-2. Detroit? Ditto. Baltimore? They laid a Raven-sized egg in Tennessee. New England? Houston? San Diego?

Nope, there’s no sure things this year, except for the fact that the team wins it all will have a good quarterback.
About the only sure thing is the bottom of the league, where the dozen or so worst teams in the league are going nowhere fast. Our No. 32 team is Kansas City, but St. Louis and Indianapolis aren’t far off.

On to the rankings!

1. GREEN BAY (3-0)

Last week: 27-17 win at Chicago
Next three weeks: vs. DEN, at ATL, vs. STL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Packers are a pretty easy No. 1 choice here, but it’s worth noting that they’re only a little bit better on offense (6.5 yards a play) than they are on defense (6.3 yards a play).
 

2. BUFFALO (3-0)

Last week:34-31 win vs. New England
Next three weeks: at CIN, vs. PHI, at NYG
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bills have scored more points in the second half of their three games this year (80) then they did over all 24 quarters of the last six games of 2010 (70). Bonus fact: Despite their amazing start, they’re last in the league in sacks (two).

3. NEW ORLEANS (2-1)

Last week:40-33 win vs. Houston
Next three weeks: at JAX, at CAR, at TB
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: He’s been overshadowed by Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers, but Drew Brees is on pace for 5,644 yards, 48 touchdowns and a 109.7 rating.

4. BALTIMORE (2-1)

Last week:37-7 win at St. Louis
Next three weeks: vs. NYJ, bye, vs. HOU
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Ray Rice is averaging 5.6 yards a carry and 12.7 yards a catch, and is on pace for 2,181 yards from scrimmage this year. And if the MVP vote were held today, he wouldn’t get close to a vote. Like ESPN keeps telling us, it’s the year of the quarterback.

5. DETROIT (3-0)

Last week: 26-23 win at Minnesota
Next three weeks: at DAL, vs. CHI, vs. SF
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: There’s plenty of positivity to go around for Lions fans this week, so let us throw one caveat in the mix; the defense is allowing 5.0 yards a rush thus far. The good news? Their next three opponents are averaging 3.2 (Dallas), 3.2 (Chicago) and 2.5 (San Francisco). Yep. Everything’s coming up blue and silver these days.

6. NEW ENGLAND (2-1)

Last week: 34-31 loss at Buffalo
Next three weeks: at OAK, vs. NYJ, vs. DAL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Patriots’ next six opponents are all currently 2-1, which isn’t great news for a defense allowing 7.1 yards a play. How bad is that? The great 2007 Patriots offense only averaged 6.2 yards a play.

7. HOUSTON (2-1)

Last week: 40-33 loss at New Orleans
Next three weeks: vs. PIT, vs. OAK, at BAL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Texans are averaging 30 points a game on the dot and 400.7 yards per game. But offense was never the problem, was it? We’ll see how good the defense is the next three weeks against the AFC playoff competition.

8. SAN DIEGO (2-1)

Last week:20-17 win vs. Kansas City
Next three weeks: vs. MIA, at DEN, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: How do you get to leading the league in time of possession (34:19 a game)? Converting on 62 percent of your third downs is a good way to start.

9. NEW YORK JETS (2-1)

Last week:34-24 loss at Oakland
Next three weeks: at BAL, at NE, vs. MIA
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Mark Sanchez is looking pretty sharp (90.9 rating, 14th), but a ground game averaging 3.37 yards per carry isn’t going to cut it.

10. OAKLAND (2-1)

Last week:34-24 win vs. NYJ
Next three weeks: vs. NE, at HOU, vs. CLE
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The new kickoff rules seem to have also had an odd effect on punters, who are bombing away at record pace. Oakland’s Shane Lechler leads the league at 56.2 yards a boot, one of four punters over a 50-yard average, and the league average is up almost two yards per attempt.

­­­11. TENNESSEE (2-1)

Last week:17-14 win vs. Denver
Next three weeks: at CLE, at PIT, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Poor offensive opposition has something to do with it, but Tennessee is leading the league in yards per play allowed (4.2) and yards per game allowed (261), and trails only Baltimore in scoring defense (14.3). Tip of the cap to new defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, who’s going to be in the running for a head job somewhere if the Titans keep it up.

12. PITTSBURGH (2-1)

Last week:23-20 win at Indianapolis
Next three weeks: at HOU, vs. TEN, vs. JAX
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Despite going three games without an interception, the Steelers’ Defensive Passer Rating is 81.8, good for ninth in the NFL; they haven’t allowed a pass play over 29 yards all season.

13. NEW YORK GIANTS (2-1)

Last week:29-16 win at Philadelphia
Next three weeks: at ARI, vs. SEA, vs. BUF
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Eli Manning was only sacked 18 times last year, but he’s gone down 10 times already. Still, he’ll keep taking the hits as long as his rating stays up (104.5, well over his career 80.8 average) and his interceptions stay down (two).

14. DALLAS (2-1)

Last week:18-16 win vs. Washington
Next three weeks: vs. DET, bye, at NE
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Cowboys have to like the way the ball has bounced for them thus far. They’ve fumbled the ball 12 times, most in the league, but only three of them were recovered by the other team. Compare that to Pittsburgh, which has lost all six of its fumbles.

15. PHILADELPHIA (1-2)

Last week:29-16 loss vs. Giants
Next three weeks: vs. SF, at BUF, at WAS
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Eagles will be mocked for their “Dream Team” offseason label (thanks, Vince!), but Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin have been the real deal on the defensive line with eight sacks between them in three games.

16. TAMPA BAY (2-1)

Last week:16-13 win vs. ATL
Next three weeks: vs. IND, at SF, vs NO
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Bucs are winning, but they need big plays -- they’re last in 20+ yard passes (four) and 17th in 10+ yard runs (seven).

17. ATLANTA (1-2)

Last week:16-13 loss at TB
Next three weeks: at SEA, vs. GB, vs. CAR
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Falcons won last year with manageable down and distance situations and the coolness of Matty Ice. Their first-down rushing performance in 2011 is melting the season a bit; they’re 29th with 93 first-down yards on the ground, and they’re 31st in run-pass split at 30.1 percent running.

18. WASHINGTON (2-1)

Last week:18-16 loss vs. Dallas
Next three weeks: at STL, bye, vs. PHI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Redskins have only dropped one pass and have a league-low 10 offensive penalties. They might not be the most explosive bunch in the league (21st in yards per play), but they don’t beat themselves.

19. CHICAGO (1-2)

Last week:27-17 loss vs. Green Bay
Next three weeks: vs. CAR, at DET, vs. MIN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Why aren’t the Bears running the ball? Probably because they have 16 runs for negative yards, most in the league, despite fewer attempts than anyone in the league (51).  

20. SAN FRANCISCO (2-1)

Last week:13-8 win at Cincinnati
Next three weeks: at PHI, vs TB, at DET
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Only two of the 17 passes thrown to Vernon Davis have been incomplete, making him the most reliable non-RB option so far with an 88.2 completion percentage.

21. CLEVELAND (2-1)

Last week:17-16 win vs. Miami
Next three weeks: vs. TEN, bye, at OAK
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Browns’ stats are more or less a mirror image of their opponents across the board thus far, and their opponents were Cincinnati (ranked 24th), Indianapolis (31st) and Miami (27th)

22. CAROLINA (1-2)

Last week:16-10 win vs. Jacksonville
Next three weeks: at CHI, vs. NO, at ATL
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Panthers have scored in 10 of the 12 quarters they’ve played thus far; not bad for a team that averaged 12.2 points a game last year.

23. ARIZONA (1-2)

Last week:13-10 loss at Seattle
Next three weeks: vs. NYG, at MIN, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Cardinals were somehow down to Alfonso Smith and Chester Taylor at tailback Sunday, and the 25 carries for 74 yards (2.9 average) was about right.

24. CINCINNATI (1-2)

Last week:13-8 loss vs. San Francisco
Next three weeks: at BUF, at JAX, vs. IND
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Why are the Bengals 1-2 despite a soft schedule and an improved defense? Six red zone trips in three games – with only two touchdowns -- is a good way to start explaining it.

25. JACKSONVILLE (1-2)

Last week:16-10 loss vs. Carolina
Next three weeks: vs. NO, vs. CIN, at PIT
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Jacksonville quarterbacks have thrown 30 passes Mike Thomas’ way … for 139 yards, and with three interceptions. He’s their go-to guy, but he’s not going to anywhere special.

26. DENVER (1-2)

Last week:17-14 loss at Tennessee
Next three weeks: at GB, vs. SD, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Three games, three final scores of three points or fewer on either side. The competition wasn’t great, and neither are the Broncos, but Denver lost by 14+ six times last year – so that’s progress.

27. MIAMI (0-3)

Last week:17-16 loss at Cleveland
Next three weeks: at SD, bye, at NYJ
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: In Week 14 of 2010, the Dolphins won at the Jets to go to 7-6 and stay in the playoff hunt. Since, they’ve gone 0-6 and lost the turnover battle 12-4.

28. MINNESOTA (0-3)

Last week:26-23 OT loss vs. Detroit
Next three weeks: at KC, vs. AZ, vs. CHI
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Adrian Peterson says he can’t understand why he isn’t getting the ball as much this year. Well, maybe the confusion is because he is actually getting the ball as much this year. He’s touched the ball 22 times a game this year; he averaged 21.3 in 2010.

29. SEATTLE (1-2)

Last week:13-10 win vs. Arizona
Next three weeks: vs. ATL, at NYG, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Seahawks are being outgained 318-215, are averaging 3.7 yards a play to 5.0 yards per play against, and are being outsacked 14-to-5. And … they’re right in the playoff mix.

30. ST. LOUIS (0-3)

Last week:37-7 loss at Baltimore
Next three weeks: vs. WAS, bye, at GB
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Sam Bradford has been hit or sacked 42 times thus far this year; to put that in perspective, Peyton Manning only took 63 hits over 16 games for the Colts in 2011.

31. INDIANAPOLIS (0-3)

Last week:23-20 loss vs. Pittsburgh
Next three weeks: at TB, vs. KC, at CIN
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: The Colts’ run defense, which was so notoriously terrible throughout all of Peyton Manning’s great years, is allowing 3.3 yards a carry this year without him. Cut that meat! Cut that meat!

32. KANSAS CITY (0-3)

Last week:20-17 loss at San Diego
Next three weeks: vs. MIN, at IND, bye
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Dwayne Bowe’s 15-TD season of 2010 is a thing of the past. He leads the league in drops (four, tied with Brandon Marshall and Roddy White), and has only caught 11 of the 22 balls thrown his way.  



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